Every time Jimmy Lough takes the mound for the Licking County Settlers this summer, he sees it as another opportunity to better prepare himself for his first season at Ohio State.
The 2012 Newark Catholic High School graduate signed with the Buckeyes during his senior year, but the right-hander accepted their request to play a season with a junior college to improve his game and be ready to go for the 2014 season.
"When (the Ohio State coaches initially) told me they think I should go to junior college first, I felt a little uneasy about it," Lough said. "No one wants to hear that immediately. The first thought I had was, 'You want me to go six hours away to (Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill.) when I'm 45 minutes away from Ohio State?'
"But they reassured me by explaining their plan. They said the other freshmen pitchers were going to sit and waste a season, but they wanted me to have some college experience because they see me getting playing time as a sophomore. That made going to Lincoln Trail much easier to accept."
Lough said he got a late start preparing for his only season at Lincoln Trail because of an injury late last fall.
He began working bullpen sessions in late February during the team's spring break trip. He then spent the first half of the season working out of the bullpen before making his first start.
Lough made 12 appearances on the mound for the Statesmen, going 3-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 54 innings. He had the second-lowest ERA among the team's pitchers who pitched 32 or more innings.
"There's a lot of great talent in JUCO because those are the players who are looking to get drafted quickly or trying to improve their grades to accept scholarships," Lough said. "When I finally got some starts in, I pitched real well. I went at least eight innings in my last five starts and built up some stamina and momentum that I'm just trying to carry over with the Settlers."
Lough was 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings through 16 games with the Settlers, who are the defending champions of the Great Lakes Summer College League.
"Jimmy has come in and pitched well for us," Settlers coach Andy Revell said. "He's a hard worker and a real competitor. We have struggled offensively, but I think we're showing signs of coming out of it."
The Settlers, who had a .226 team batting average through 16 games, lost to the Cincinnati Steam 6-5 in the first game of a doubleheader June 26 at Don Edwards Park to drop to 9-7. The second game was suspended because of rain with the game tied at 2 in the third inning.
Licking County had 13 hits in the first game against Cincinnati and, in its final at-bat, had an opportunity to win the game or force extra innings. With the Settlers trailing 6-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning, catcher Woody Wallace doubled, first baseman Ryan Mulligan singled and left fielder Brandon Kregel was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Wallace scored when center fielder David Wolak grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, but the next batter, second baseman Josh Carpenter, grounded out to end the game.
Right fielder Ashton Perritt went 4-for-4 in the contest and third baseman Ryan Huber went 3-for-4. Wallace and Carpenter both had two hits.
Licking County was fourth in the 10-team GLSCL standings entering play June 27, behind Southern Ohio (13-3), Lima (9-5) and Cincinnati (10-7).
The Settlers, who played Southern Ohio on June 28 and 29, are scheduled to play five games over the next seven days. They will travel to Lexington (Ky.) on Tuesday, July 2, and Lima on Thursday, July 4. They then play host to Lima on Friday, July 5, and Xenia on Saturday, July 6, before traveling to Xenia on July 7.